In Defense of Amy Winehouse

Her reputation preceded her—in my case, anyway. I was vaguely aware of “Rehab” and thought it was catchy, but it seemed like a gimmicky novelty song playing on people’s nostalgia of the old girl groups of the sixties. I liked the rebelliousness of the lyrics, though as time went on it became clear that rebellious or not, she needed help.

Before long, images of her reckless behavior flooded the media. That was the Amy Winehouse I thought I knew. The druggie. The drunk. The trainwreck. People enjoyed bashing her—for how awful she looked, for how strung out she was, for her penchant for getting into trouble. Admittedly, she was an easy target. Then, in 2011, she played with fire for the last time and died as a result of alcohol poisoning. Hardly a surprise. Another musician who can’t handle their addiction bites the dust, right?

Then I heard her music.

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I’m not sure how I came to hear the quote-unquote ‘real’ Amy Winehouse (by which I mean a song other than Rehab). It might’ve been because I had discovered Sharon Jones, and found out that her backing band, The Dap-Kings, played on Winehouse’s massive hit (and final) album, Back to Black. All I know is, when I pressed play on that first song (I wasn’t listening in chronological order—it was either Love is a Losing Game or You Know I’m No Good) everything else faded away. The world stopped turning for a minute while I sat entranced by the voice coming through the speakers.

“My God, THIS is Amy Winehouse?”

Granted, listening to her music posthumously gives it a haunting, verging-on-tragic edge that it might not have had when she was alive, but the fact remains her voice was simply amazing. Hearing her music, not just the one single I’d already heard, I finally understood what the big deal was all about.

Unfortunately, there are still a lot of people who don’t. A simple google search of her name returns as many links detailing her struggles with addiction as to her music itself. Where do we draw the line, between remembering someone’s contributions in the name of art rather than simply remembering the mess they made of their lives? Is it because her struggles were so public?

That’s the thing that’s gets me about her detractors—if you like music art of any kind, chances are strong that at least some of what you like was created by some truly screwed up individuals. The list of actors, writers, and musicians, etc. who are/were addicts or alcoholics is staggering. I started researching so I could list a few here, and the list was overwhelming. Everyone from heroin-addicted jazz musicians to Edgar Allen Poe to painter Thomas Kinkade, who died as a result mixing copious amounts of alcohol and valium.

Who would've guessed The Painter of Light battled with demons?

Who would’ve guessed The Painter of Light battled with demons?

Eventually, I’m confident time will take care of it. Maybe it’s already starting to. That’s one thing about art: it stands the test of time. Although it’s true that Amy found fame in the modern age of paparazzi and images of her being extremely messed up are all over the internet, people will care less and less about that as time goes on. Her music will still be there, and will still be amazing.

Even though her contribution to the world of music is relatively small at only two albums, it seems we should give her the same respect we give others who have fought and lost their own battles (Whitney Houston comes to mind). People should be defined by the art they gave the world, not the mess their personal lives may have been in the process.

And who knows, maybe she doesn’t need defending at all. Or, maybe the people out there who have no respect for her never will, and trying to defend her to those people is an exercise if futility. But if you only know the tabloid persona and you’ve never actually heard her music, forget what you think you know and give her a chance.

If you want a retro sixties vibe, stream Back to Black. If you’re more of the jazz persuasion, try her astounding debut (recorded when she was just 19 years old), Frank. If you don’t have that kind of time and just want to check out a single song or two, go back up and check out the other links. She wrote the majority of her own songs, and was a lot more than just a girl with a beehive hairdo, crazy eye makeup, and a substance abuse problem. She was an artist. Hopefully that’s how she’ll be remembered.

Lessons Learned from Listening to a ‘Cool’ Radio Station

It’s amazing to me how even in 2014, in an age of self-driving cars and hyper-realistic sex dolls (clearly the two biggest technological advancements of all time, right?), I can still forget what kind of incredible technology I have at my fingertips.

Growing up in a sparse desert halfway between Los Angeles and Las Vegas, radio was a fickle, fickle thing. Vegas stations were much too far away. The LA stations were attainable, depending on a few things—where your house was located, how good an antenna you had, and just which station you wanted to listen to. If it was classic rock you were after, then you’d have no problems whatsoever pulling in KLOS, which had the strongest signal and could be picked up from practically anywhere in our Mad Max-like wasteland (slight exaggeration). If your tastes were slightly more off center, however, then getting a good radio station became exponentially more difficult.

(I should note, just in case any desert friends happened to be reading, I know eventually X1039 popped up and made things a heck of a lot better, but I’m talking about the harder-to-get stations from the barren, early years before their existence, so bear with me. Also, desert friends: is that still the only ‘local’ alternative station or do you have any actually broadcasting in the Victor Valley yet?)

The radio situation was part of what made going to concerts such a special experience. See, at that point in time you pretty much had to make the 100-mile-plus drive all the way to LA or Orange County to see a band you liked, and that meant you could get all the stations that were faint, static-filled whispers in the night back in the desert. The go-to station would usually be KROQ—er, “The World Famous KROQ” as they’re so fond of saying—an alternative station that played a plethora of music that most stations within our measly desert reception area never touched. You could hear new music, but you could also hear music you actually liked on the radio—something I think people take for granted in the new, Pandora/Spotify era.

The other, even more elusive station was 91X out of San Diego. They were even farther away and it would usually take an extra long trip somewhere far from the desert to be able to pick them up (in my case, anyway). They played an even broader spectrum of music, a lot of which I had never heard of, and they have the distinction of being the first (and only) terrestrial station on which I’ve ever heard the great Morphine, one of my favorites.

Now, back to the present. Cut to three weeks ago. My wife and I had a brief conversation one day about Ye Olden Days of being excited to tune in KROQ or 91X once we’d driven far enough toward civilization, and a couple of days later she casually mentioned that she’d started listening to 91x, streaming it from their website.

I looked at her like a dog when you ask it who sang Purple Haze. “Really?” I asked. “You can just do that?” You see, guys, I was being an idiot. It never dawned on me even once to just go to a radio station’s website and stream their signal. Partially I suppose it’s because the stations here in Wichita are absolutely dreadful, and why on earth would I want to stream them when I can listen to a Pandora station that’s infinitely better? But now, realizing the great brass ring of radio stations was right there this whole time, just waiting for me to tune in…well, I felt pretty dumb and I started streaming 91X immediately. (KROQ requires some app to stream their feed, and said app is the lowest-rated I’ve ever seen in the app store, so they’ll just have to fix their shit before I listen to them anytime soon)

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It’s been two weeks now of unadulterated, previously unattainable radio, and what have I learned? Let’s see:

Never heard of KONGOS? Give 91X a day, two tops.

I knew vaguely of their song “Come with Me Now” from…somewhere; a commercial or movie trailer or something. It’s an okay song—catchy, not overly poppy, and features slide guitar, a true rarity in today’s music. 91X likes KONGOS A LOT. Not just the one song, either. I’m now familiar with about half their current album. Not that that’s necessarily a bad thing, just sayin’.

They actually play a decent amount of new music.

I can’t claim to be the bastion of cool I was in my 20’s (inside joke there for anyone who actually knew me in my 20’s), so I don’t know how obscure or underground any of the new music 91X plays is. The fact is, I don’t really care.  They’re playing music that I’m not familiar with that’s not entirely bad, and some of it is actually pretty good. Most—no, all—the stations here in town can only hold me for about ten minutes or so before they play something that makes me want to puke or pull an “Aunt Linda” from SNL:

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You may wonder why I say they play only a ‘decent’ amount of new music. That brings me to my next point.

They pander to old people like me.

It’s nice to hear an occasional nugget from my youth mixed in with the new stuff; you need something to be able to hum/sing along with once in a while. 91X makes sure to comfort us old folks by playing the likes of Sublime, Offspring, Weezer, Beastie Boys, Nirvana, No Doubt, etc. constantly. Don’t get me wrong, like I said, it’s nice to have the familiar mixed in with the new, but it’s not like they’re playing deep cuts off of the obscure albums or anything like that. In most cases they’re playing the same songs that were played to death 20 years ago. And some of those old bands (*cough-Offspring-cough*) I never liked to begin with.

One thing I have to say about playing old music: even though I’ve never been the band’s biggest fan, I will instantly be a fan of any radio station that plays Violent Femmes, particularly “Add it Up.” They were one of those bands I never heard anywhere but on the cool stations, and while I won’t listen to an entire album of theirs, I like whatever songs get played on the radio.

All in all, it’s been a great time and has made me crave more. And this is where I reach out to you folks.

What’s your favorite (preferably independent) radio station? I’ve noticed some of the differences and similarities between 91X and the ‘cool’ station in Kansas City, 96.5 The Buzz (stupid name, but it doesn’t have an ‘X’ in it). Some songs overlap, but there’s a good number of different artists as well, and that’s where it gets interesting. I want to see what bands/songs the radio station in your town plays. This goes for anyone and everyone reading this, too; not just people who like this kind of music. I’m eclectic, I want to hear it all. Even that handful of you who read from outside the US, if I can stream it, let me know about it.

In the meantime, I’m going to go turn on some tunes and bet my wife how which band 91X plays first: KONGOS or Nirvana.

On The Joy of Discovery

This post mainly serves as a way for me to knock the rust off, as it were. As you may or may not have noticed, I’ve been gone for a little bit. I’ll go into what caused my temporary absence sometime, but for now I’m just trying to get back in the water, so to speak.

Here are words I wasn’t sure I’d ever say: I saw a really good Woody Allen Movie recently. Don’t get me wrong, I have nothing against the man, and there are quite a few of his movies I might enjoy, but the ones I’ve seen, well, they just weren’t my thing (full disclosure—I haven’t seen any of the “classic” Allen movies like Annie Hall or Manhattan). Then I saw Match Point (2005).

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Jonathan Rhys Meyers stars as a has-been-that-never-quite-was tennis pro who takes a job as an instructor at a posh country club in London. He strikes up a friendship with one of his clients, then becomes obsessed with his friend’s fiancé, played by Scarlett Johansson. Meanwhile, his friend’s sister falls head over heels for him, so he begins dating (and eventually marrying) the sister mostly just to keep himself around the fiancé (and his wife’s family’s money), until finally initiating an affair. From there things unravel in quite an interesting—and intense—way.

The movie was a bit unusual in it’s pacing to me. It was sort of a fast-paced slow burn of a thriller. At times it seems like not a whole lot is going on, and yet the story really never stops moving. It was interesting from a storytelling point of view how little wasted time there was. Some scenes would literally be thirty seconds long, giving you just a glimpse of a character’s facial expression to show what they’re thinking/feeling before moving on to the next scene. It was the increasingly rare movie that didn’t feel too long or drawn out; the two hour running time flew by.

Near the end the police enter the story, and their handling of affairs borders on implausible, but the movie was so good that I felt I could let that slide. If you’re in the mood for a dark, intense couple of hours, give it a shot. The tone reminded me a bit of The Talented Mr. Ripley, though not as high a body count.

Now then, on to the title of the post—discovery.

As I’ve mentioned before, in my early twenties I worked at a retail record store (the fact that we didn’t sell actual vinyl records not withstanding). I clearly remember when LeAnn Rimes came out with her debut album, lots of older/elderly people would come in asking for the CD, all of them remarking “She sounds just like Patsy Cline.” I would think, Why do you want to listen to somebody who sounds like someone else? Why don’t you just listen to Patsy Cline?

There was another artist, the name escapes me (maybe D’Angelo?), that people would buy because they thought he sounded like Al Green. Again, I thought, Just go listen to Al Green. Which really isn’t too bad of advice, people. Seriously, put some Al Green in your life. I digress. The point is, now I think I get it.

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I was reading about the goings on at SXSW and happened upon a sentence or two about a band called Radkey. I decided to look them up on YouTube, and well…holy crap. Three brothers from Missouri who play punk rock with just the right touch of melody and harmony (for my tastes, anyway—I’m not much for the really poppy sounds, if you haven’t been able to tell from previous posts), and hearing them felt like someone put jumper cables on my nipples and jumpstarted my head.

There’ve been the occasional bands I’ve come across in the last few years that I liked pretty good, but I seem to keep drifting back to my comfort zone: music from the 90’s and early aughts. Nothing I found recently really moved me except for a select few: Red Fang, which is really up my alley but still not totally freak out worthy; Sharon Jones and the Dap-Kings, whose funk stylings are awesome but sometimes veer too far to the R&B/soul for my tastes; and OFF!, whose brutal attack of songs are great but short—you can listen to their first four EP’s in less time than it takes to watch a sitcom (without the commercials).

All of which makes Radkey that much more special to me. For the first time in years I found a band that’s actually out right now that I like a lot. Part of what makes them so exciting is how young they are—both in the literal sense and also as a band. They managed to get attention early on and are getting breaks fast, having put out only two EP’s so far. To be able to track their progress in the industry and see how they grow as a band as it happens is something I haven’t done in a long, long time.

Are they perfect? Hell no, far from it. A couple of their songs are kind of generic, and all three brothers are far from virtuosos (the drummer is adequate at best). But that’s the beauty of punk rock—you don’t have to be a master of your instrument, you just need the passion, energy, and emotion, and as long as that comes across in your music, why, you’re just fine. And they’re only going to get better.

Now, I know a lot of you may not share my taste for this particular slice of musical pie, but if you’re so inclined, give ’em a whirl. They have a definite Ramones influence, and at times the singer/guitarist sounds an awful lot like Glenn Danzig, giving them a Misfits vibe. There’s more to them than that of course, so if you’re into that kind of thing check them out. You can visit their website and stream their EP’s here, or you can find performance clips on YouTube—I’ve included a link to my favorite song of theirs, Out Here In My Head, live on Later…with Jools Holland.

And with that, I think I’m officially rust free. 🙂

Auditory Time Machines and The Concert from Hell

A while back on Facebook there was a thread going around to list the first ten albums that sprung to mind that were special to you and had stuck with you over the years. It was a lot of fun, and not just in making up my own list but seeing the lists my friends came up with—there would be one or two that would stick out from the others that told you there might be more to your friend’s musical tastes than you thought.

When I looked over the list I made, I realized something: each album I listed brought to mind a very specific period in time. Sometimes it was a span of a couple of years, sometimes it was just one memorable night. Some examples:

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Minor Threat was a punk band with a short (but brilliant) career. Their entire discography is only about 45 minutes long, and was all released as one album after their demise, titled simply Complete Discography. Although they were around in the early 80’s I didn’t discover them until a decade later, when I was in my first real band and going to lots of concerts and playing shows of our own, etc. To this day, hearing Minor Threat puts me back behind the wheel of my old red Ford Tempo, driving around the desert picking up my friends without rides so our band could practice (a lot of good it did us *ba dum tish*).

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Jimi Plays Monterey is  a live album that was released in 1986, just after I had moved to a new town and started at a new school. I found a friend who also liked listening to his parents’ records, and instead of Flock of Seagulls or Depeche Mode we were listening to Cream and Jimi Hendrix. That album (which is still incredible if you’re a Hendrix fan) takes me back to doing homework in my room while furious guitar solos blared in my ear.

Then there’s the one that takes me to one night. December 26, 1992, to be exact. The concert from hell.

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I volunteered/was volunteered to drive four of us to see the band Ministry, on tour supporting their new album Psalm 69, with opening acts Helmet and Sepultura. All bands I really liked a lot—it looked to be an awesome night of music and I was really excited for the show. The concert was in North Hollywood, which was a couple of hours from our desert homebase, so we planned to leave early in the afternoon to avoid traffic and get there in plenty of time, which was standard operating procedure.

In the interest of anonymity, I’m going to change the names of my passengers. We’ll call them Paul, George, and Ringo. As we were leaving for the show, Ringo told me we needed to stop at his brother’s house on the way. His brother lived in a city that was right off the freeway and really wasn’t out of the way at all, so it was no big deal. Still, my spidey-senses should have started tingling right away. Without going into too much detail, things went down at said brother’s house which put my passengers in a much better mood but freaked me out A LOT.

Our stop was longer than intended and it put us behind schedule if we met any traffic on the freeway the rest of the way to LA, which was quite common. So we rushed back on the road and sure enough, stop and go, bumper-to-bumper traffic. Finally we seemed to get past the congestion as everyone sped back up to normal speeds again, when suddenly everyone slammed on their brakes again. I stood on my brake and came within inches of the car in front of me, letting out a sigh of relief until George yelled “REAR END!” and we were hit from behind by a car with, I’m guessing, worse brakes or poorer reflexes.

We dealt with the accident and got to the venue about twenty minutes after start time, missing most of the first band. We’re weaving our way through the maze of parked cars when George sees a nice Mercedes with a primo parking spot, and is suddenly very upset by this. Since he already had been complaining about needing to find a bathroom(and was of a mental state that could not exactly be defined as sober), he decided to kill two birds with one stone and proceeded to urinate all over the expensive luxury sedan. This freaked me out, because as part of the group I figured I was guilty by association. Luckily, no one saw this go down.

By the time we got inside the venue and reached our seats, I was an electric ball of nerves. It had been a long trip getting there, and I wasn’t looking forward to the drive back. Then to top it all off we managed to get separated at one point, so I didn’t even know where everyone was. Needless to say, Paul, George, and Ringo were all oblivious to my ulcer-inducing experience and had a much better time than I did that night. But ever since, whenever I hear any song from the album Psalm 69 I’m taken right back to that fateful trip to North Hollywood.

Okay, guys—story time. Tell me the memories you have tied to music, good or bad. What are your auditory time machines?

The Grammy Awards: Your Uncool Uncle

“The Grammys is the one award that doesn’t matter to anyone until they win one.”

For 15-20 years, I dismissed the Grammys as utter crap. It all started back in 1989, when they decided to branch out and recognize heavy metal and hard rock with its own category/award. And in a year when Metallica’s …And Justice For All ruled the rock/metal world (and, in my opinion, were still good and relevant), who was awarded the Grammy? Jethro Tull.

I repeat: Jethro Freaking Tull. A band with a flautist. How metal.

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It was an insult, a joke, and the moment I quit caring about the Grammys. And why should I? The music that mattered to me wasn’t even getting radio airplay most of the time, let alone being recognized by the industry. If a band I liked would’ve won a Grammy back then, I would’ve expected them to either not show up to receive it or give a vulgar and disparaging acceptance speech, detailing the ways the award was a joke and meant nothing to them. Breaking it on the stage would have been a plus.

In the early 2000’s I started watching the Grammys again, mostly out of morbid curiosity. There were some interesting wins here and there, some I agreed with and a lot I didn’t. There were interesting performances, some memorable and some miserable. But what became more and more clear is that for every tragic misfire there would usually also be a step in the right direction.

A prime example: in 2007 and 2008, Slayer won back-to-back Grammys. Slayer, one of the least commercial bands in the history of rock music, and one of my favorite bands. And all I could think to myself was, “It’s about damn time.” Suddenly the Grammys mattered, because a band I liked won one. And they humbly and graciously accepted the award, despite my wishes a decade earlier that any band I liked that won demolish the award immediately.

Now, I don’t always agree so wholeheartedly with who wins the Grammys (although I really don’t lose any sleep over any of it), but over the last few years I’ve come to view the Grammys as an uncool uncle you only see once a year—he isn’t as cool as he tries to be; he can sometimes be downright embarrassing; but, above all else he’s trying, and that counts for something.

Looking at this year’s rock nominees is a pretty good example: a handful of newer, and in my opinion more relevant artists mixed in with the likes of Black Sabbath, Neil Young, David Bowie, The Rolling Stones, and Led Zeppelin. Led Zeppelin, for God’s sake. It seems to me more young acts should be nominated to keep interest in the awards, or else each new generation is going to write the Grammys off  as a bunch of geezers giving each other awards—although hopefully we never see another Jethro Tull-style goof up.

I had thought about doing a write up of the Grammys fully expecting it to be a snarky, sarcastic, excessively negative piece about the worthlessness of the awards. And while I still don’t think any band should care that much about winning one, it would be naive to say they don’t matter at all. The truth is, the Grammy is the biggest music award on the planet, and who wouldn’t like to be told their work is good enough to get one? The fact that they also give them to some of the worst songs/performers every year in the pop categories is another matter, and I’ll leave that issue to someone else.

I also have to admit that I’ve quite enjoyed the actual Grammy telecast the last few years; they really appear to be pulling out all the stops to make the show itself memorable, even if you don’t care about the actual awards. And with that, I’ll be the first to admit I’ll be watching Sunday night anxious to see who/what people are going to be talking about on Monday. Will you be watching?

The Best and Worst Band Names, As Determined By Me

I decided against anything too serious this week. I figured people are getting ready for the Thanksgiving holiday, preparing to face the rabid masses on Black Friday, or going balls-to-the-wall to wrap up the month with a win at NaNo. Either way, I didn’t feel like writing anything too lengthy or serious, either. I decided to look at band names a little bit.

Band names are a funny thing. If a band is around long enough, or if their music is good enough, their name just sort of becomes accepted no matter how nonsensical or silly it is. But if you strip away the name and just look at it for its own merit, what do you have?

Sometimes band names have deep meaning (Rage Against The Machine). Sometimes they’re just random words thrown together (Foo Fighters). Sometimes the names fit the band perfectly, and sometimes you’re embarrassed to speak them aloud. Let’s take a look at a few.

The first band I was ever in (who never played a single gig) was called Doomsday Parade. Pretty dumb, but I guess there’s a certain ring to it. Nah, it’s dumb. The next band, and first “real” band, was called Grimoire (grim-war, phonetically). It’s the name given to a textbook of magic and things of that sort. We basically just picked it because we thought it sounded cool. I still like that name okay, but the spelling threw people off, so it wasn’t especially catchy.

The band with whom I spent most of my time trying to pursue a living playing music took their name from a comic strip. The Far Side by Gary Larson, to be exact. Try as I might, I can’t find the original comic online. It featured a three-piece elephant punk band. Across the bass drum were the words ‘Tarzan must die’. The caption read “Angry Young Pachyderms”. We used the name (and acronym AYP) for quite a while. At first, it fit our style perfectly. Our music was angry, but we definitely had a light side. Later, as we became more serious we used the acronym exclusively and felt like the name didn’t fit like it used to, but we had built a bit of a following under the name and didn’t want to change it.

I have a feeling some of the bands on my list fall under that category, too. It may have been a good idea at the time, but they would’ve changed it later if they could have.

The Groundrules

I’m sticking with fairly mainstream bands here, that hopefully most people have heard of. If I wanted to get totally obscure, there are over a dozen bands out there I’ve never heard of with ‘Anal’ as the first word of the name. I’m not going there. I’m also trying to keep this somewhere near a PG-13 level.

Saying I don’t like a band’s name is not necessarily a condemnation of their music. There are lots of great bands with stupid/silly names out there.

This list is obviously extremely subjective, and I want to know your nominees for best and worst in the comments. Okay, let’s start with the good ones.

Best Band Names

The Clash – Simple, effective. Also fit the band’s musical stylings to a tee.

Massive Attack – Great name. Fun to say. Maybe it’s something about those soft ‘a’s. Doesn’t really fit the music they put out, but an awesome name nonetheless.

L7 – Slang for “square” and easy to scratch on your notebook or Peechee folder.

Black Flag – Opposite from the white flag of surrender, black flag means to not give up. They were not, in fact, named after bug spray. I stand corrected.

Misfits – Again, simple. You know what you’re gonna get when you hear the name. They were more goth and horror inspired than the name implies, but a great name. They also hold the distinction of having one of the most instantly recognizable logos of all time, but that’s a subject for another post.

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Sex Pistols – One of my favorite names, for the sheer audacity of it. What I like is hearing people say it. It’s kind of dirty, but not so dirty people would refuse to say it (like the more recent Pussy Riot).

Public Enemy – Such an obvious choice for a name it’s hard to believe no one else thought of it first. Completely fit the music – there couldn’t have been a better name for a rap group in the ’80s.

Worst Band Names

The Meat Puppets – Ugh. I have the feeling it sounded funny when they thought of it, but it’s really hard for me to take seriously. At the same time, the music isn’t jokey at all either. Fail on both counts.

The Presidents of the United States of America – The only way I could’ve gotten behind this name was if the members actually wore presidential masks when they played. But they didn’t.

Tool – I’m going to take a lot of heat from my friends on this one. Like I said before, I’m separating the name from the music. Great band. Awful, phallic name.

Hoobastank – Enough said.

Limp Bizkit – What can I say about them that hasn’t already been said? Not much. Generally, it’s a good idea to not put the word ‘limp’ in your name.

Toad the Wet Sprocket – On the good side, it was taken from a Monty Python sketch. On the bad side…well, everything else. Not catchy, not funny, not anything good.

Goo Goo Dolls – Whenever I hear this name all I can think is ‘what the hell?’ What is a goo goo doll? Is it for babies? Is it for adults? *shudder* I don’t know, and now that I think about it, I don’t want to know.

Cinderella – Yeah. Let’s name our rock band after a girl in a fairy tale. I really have no idea what these guys were thinking. Not just thinking the name up, but sticking with it after all the chances they could’ve had to change it. It just boggles the mind.

Okay, your turn. Tell me who I forgot or who makes your list. Good luck to all my writer friends scrambling to hit their word count for NaNo, and Happy Thanksgiving!

How Do You Find New Music?

I would generally consider the ’90s to be my musical peak. Not only in terms of writing/performing (although it certainly was that), but also in terms of just listening to music. I still love music, and I still listen to music as much as I can, but it doesn’t compare to the way I went through music back then. I consumed music. Devoured it.

During that time, I remember a handful of old guys (and by old I mean they were older than the twenty year old me, so I’m probably the age now they were then) who made me kind of sad. They seemed to be stuck in decades past, musically speaking. They refused to acknowledge that any good music had been made in twenty years. They thought good music ceased with the last Pink Floyd and Led Zeppelin albums. In a way, I felt bad for them. Pitied them, even. Because I knew how much awesome music there was out there to be had, and they just wouldn’t allow themselves to enjoy it. I’m never going to be like that, I told myself. I took comfort in knowing I was cool enough to recognize good music never stops being made, you just might have to do a little work to find it.

So now, jump twenty years to the present. I go to put some music on, and look through my iTunes library for something that will move me. Tens of thousands of songs to choose from, and what do I do? The vast majority of the time, I put on the music I was listening to in the ’90s. Not necessarily music that was made in the ’90s so much as the music I listened to during the decade. I’m afraid I’m turning into one of those old curmudgeons who ends up walking around muttering about how everything was better back in the old days.

I don’t know if it’s just my advancing age or if it has anything to do with how the music industry and the act of discovering new music has changed over the last twenty years. For instance, does anyone still listen to terrestrial radio anymore? The radio stations in my town are a pathetic joke – the only difference between the “Rock” station and the “Classic Rock” station is that the former will play maybe one song an hour from the turn of the millennium; otherwise, they’re pretty much interchangeable. I know in bigger cities that’s probably not as much of a problem, as I do remember being turned on to new bands on the radio when I lived close enough to L.A. to have an actual selection of stations to choose from.

But even when I put on Pandora, I set it to help me discover new music only to skip the new stuff because I don’t like it or I ignore it until something I already know comes on. So the question remains, how do I find new music (that I actually like)?

I’ve found myself going through the guide on my TV for the week, seeing who’s scheduled to perform on the week’s late night talk shows. I’ve found a couple of new favorites that way. One of the biggest finds in the past couple years for me and my tastes actually came courtesy of Last Call with Carson Daly. Yes, that Carson Daly. He takes a lot of guff, but I like the guy. I never gave a crap about TRL and I don’t watch The Voice, but throughout his career he’s always tried to introduce new music via his late-late night show, and I respect that. Thanks to him I discovered the band OFF!, fronted by the legendary Keith Morris (Circle Jerks, Black Flag), which ironically sounds a bit like a ’90s punk band.

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The other “new” artist I found (and can’t resist mentioning) is Sharon Jones and The Dap-Kings. I saw her on a late night show too, but it was a different TV appearance that hooked me. She had a set on Austin City Limits that I’m pretty sure left smoke wafting from my TV by the time it was over. If you have even an ounce of a liking for funk, soul, R & B, or even if you don’t – check them out. She has the voice of a funky angel, and The Dap-Kings are as tight as they come.

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There have been the occasional recommendations from Facebook friends, which are always much appreciated. Thanks to good lookin’ out from my friends I’ve been turned on to the spacey, trippy, indie rock of Alt-J (∆), the massive downtuned riffage of  The Sword, and what I’m listening to as I write this, the  rock beast that is Red Fang. I appreciate it all, and when I find something I like I eat it up, but the thing is…it’s not enough. I know there’s so much more out there, but somehow I’m missing it; this is just the tip of the iceberg.

So what recommendations do you all have? How do you find new artists? From TV shows? Movie trailers? Car commercials? College radio (is that still a thing?)? YouTube? Satellite radio? Has Pandora turned you on to new artists? Somebody clue me in.

As a tooting-my-own-horn kind of a side note, I logged on today to the news that I had reached 1,000 followers here on the blog. I know a lot of people have reached that number a lot faster, but I’m still floored that I’ve reached it at all. Now, I’ll be the first to tell you “followers” of the blog does not necessarily equal “readers” of the blog, as my stats can attest, but the fact remains that I am in awe that so many people have taken the time to click that ‘follow’ button, and for that I thank you.

Now, back to the topic at hand. Give me your advice for finding new music, stat! Who are some of the new bands/artists you’ve discovered, and how did you find them?

Get Ready to Cringe…My List of the Top 5 Creepy Song Lyrics

I needed  a break from writing about writing, so I decided to do something a little different.

I was walking out of my bedroom the other day, and just out of the clear blue sky I found a song going through my head.

“She’s only seventeen, Daddy says she’s too young but she’s old enough for me!”

Where on earth did that come from? I knew what it was, of course. Seventeen, by Winger. As I’ve mentioned before, when you’re a kid in the ’80’s and your favorite music is buried in between videos of hair bands on MTV, you become familiar with it all whether you like it or not.

I always thought that song was kind of creepy, and I came up with the idea of dedicating a blog post to creepy lyrics. I decided to do some looking online, and realized I’d opened a bit of a Pandora’s Box.

So I decided that out of the plethora of creepy stuff out there to just narrow it down to 5, and I’m sticking with music and artists I’m familiar with. There are evidently some Clay Aiken and Chris Brown songs that are pretty creepy, but I’m not going there.  If you think there are creepier songs out there I missed be sure and let me know in the comments.

5. The Police – Every Breath You Take (1983)

I decided to kick the list off with this one because it’s the obvious choice, but in my opinion that doesn’t make it any less creepy.  The entire song is actually pretty disturbing with it’s stalker vibe, but the classic chorus is what seals the deal: “Every breath you take, every move you make, I’ll be watching you.” Um, yeah, from no fewer than 500 feet away, thank you very much.

 

4. Winger – Seventeen (1988)

This isn’t as bad as a lot of the songs I discovered when I was looking for creepy lyrics, but I’ve included it because, like I said above,  it stands out in my mind as once of the first songs that I heard and thought, you know, that’s kind of creepy. How old is that guy singing, “She’s only seventeen, daddy says she’s too young but she’s old enough for me,” anyway?

He was 27 at the time. Can you imagine being the dad in the song, and this guy who’s pushing 30 says your daughter is “old enough” for him? If it was me, I could just picture myself choking him out with his little tank top.

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3. Practically Everyone Under the Sun – Baby, It’s Cold Outside (written in 1944)

This one seems to be a somewhat touchy issue with people. I’ve heard several different versions over the years, and I’ve become convinced it has to do with the chemistry between to two singing the song. Some versions just seem somewhat playful, but without that fun context it sounds like the makings of a holiday date rape.

It’s too long to paste all the lyrics here, but if you’re not familiar it’s a back and forth between a female saying she needs to leave and a male trying to get her to stay. He is very persistent, and gives her reason after reason why she can’t leave but for me it’s all summed up in two lines – the female line, “Say, what’s in this drink?” and the male a few lines later singing, “Your lips look delicious!” Ick.

2. Motorhead – Jailbait (1980)

As a fan of Hard Rock and Metal, Lemmy Kilmister from Motorhead is pretty much a living legend. I’m not the biggest Motorhead fan in the world, but this guy’s been out there doing his thing for decades and that gets my respect. Plus, Ace of Spades is one of the classic rock songs of all time.

Still, that doesn’t mean he gets a free pass out of Creepytown. Just the name of the song is trouble. Then there’s this gem:  “I don’t even dare ask your age it’s enough to know you’re here backstage. You’re jailbait, and I just can’t wait.” And as if that weren’t enough, just before the solo he lets loose with “Love that young stuff!

*shudder*

The thought of Lemmy having sex with anyone or anything is pretty disturbing, but when it’s an underage girl, that’s downright horrific. Can you imagine your little girl doing it with this guy?

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1. Dean MartinStanding On The Corner (1956)

Here it is, the Big Kahuna. The Grand Champion of creepy lyrics. This song in particular is the whole reason I wanted to write this post.

I realized researching for this post that this isn’t an original Dean Martin song. That’s of slight comfort.

Now, I must preface this by saying I’ve always loved the Rat Pack, and in particular Dean Martin. As a matter of fact, Dean Martin’s Greatest Hits was where I discovered this little piece of ghastly perversion. It seems innocent enough on it’s face:

“Standing on the corner watching all the girls go by
Standing on the corner watching all the girls go by
Brother you don’t know a nicer occupation
Matter of fact, neither do I
Than standing on the corner watching all the girls
Watching all the girls, watching all the girls go by”

Okay, not bad. I remember girl watching as a teenager…next verse.

“I’m the cat that got the cream
Haven’t got a girl but I can dream
Haven’t got a girl but I can wish
So I’ll take me down to Main street
And that’s where I select my imaginary dish”

Okay, that sounds a little gross…what does that mean, the cat that got the cream? Maybe I’m making something out of nothing here. What’s next?

“Standing on the corner watching all the girls go by
Standing on the corner giving all the girls the eye
Brother if you’ve got a rich imagination
Give it a whirl, give it a try
Try standing on the corner watching all the girls
Watching all the girls, watching all the girls go by”

Oh boy, okay…now, why do I need a rich imagination to look at girls? They’re pretty, sure, I can see that…but surely you don’t mean…

“Brother you can’t go to jail for what you’re thinking
Or for that woo look in your eye
Standing on the corner watching all the girls
Watching all the girls, watching all the girls go by”

Whoa, whoa, whoa…time out. What did you just say? You can’t go to jail for what you’re thinking?!? So then, you’re saying you’re thinking criminal thoughts about the girls?

Alright, just so we’re on the same page here:

THIS GUY IS STANDING ON A STREET CORNER LEERING AT YOUNG (IN SOME CASES UNDERAGE) GIRLS SO HE CAN GO HOME AND MASTURBATE TO THEM.

Holy shit!

That’s just this side of going to the park in a trench coat and watching little kids on the playground.

That’s why this one wins in my book, hands down (no pun intended).

So, I hope you enjoyed the list…now, what did I miss?

Chocolate Covered Bacon – Pop Culture’s Guilty Pleasures

I was reading something in a magazine about guilty pleasures the other day, and saw things that I liked mentioned. Not things I liked ironically, or things I liked that I know are bad, but things I really liked. It got me thinking…who defines what a guilty pleasure is? If it makes you happy it can’t be that bad, I mean — oh my God, I just quoted Sheryl Crow. You can all email me as to whether you’d rather slap me in the face or kick me in the ass.

Anyway, the point is I don’t feel that guilty about things I like, pop culture-wise. However, the more I thought the more I realized there are some things I enjoy in the privacy of my own home that I might be embarrassed to get caught enjoying in public. And so today, dear readers, I have some confessions to make.

Movies – At first, I had a hard time thinking of a specific movie that is a guilty pleasure for me. It’s more a genre than a certain movie : as I’ve discussed before, I love horror movies.  Even the crappy ones. I feel like a little kid bargaining for a later bedtime when my wife tells me to turn it from the stupid slasher flick I’ve turned on halfway through, and I beg, ‘C’mon, I just wanna see one death scene!’

I also have a soft spot for really stupid comedies, but I don’t feel all that guilty about those.

But then I did think of one particular movie, and I can’t believe I’m admitting it. One of my wife’s favorite chick flicks is the movie Return to Me, starring David Duchovny and Minnie Driver. The plot is a little farfetched. It’s not incredibly funny, but it has some funny parts. It’s not terribly mushy, but it does start to get a little gushy toward the end. But it’s actually a very sweet movie, it has some of the gruffest old bastards you can imagine in warm supporting roles (Carroll O’Connor, Robert Loggia, and William Bronder), and it was written and directed by one of the costars, the terribly underrated Bonnie Hunt.

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I used to put on an insufferable face when my wife would flip to it on a lazy Sunday afternoon. After seeing parts of it, I realized it really wasn’t as bad as a lot of the chick flicks out there. One year, I bought it for her on DVD. To this day, she thinks I’m playing games on my iPad when it’s on, but that’s just for show. If your wanting to feel in touch with your sensitive side, you could do worse.

Plus, the more she thinks I’m letting her watch it against my will, the more she’ll let me watch Walk Hard: The Dewey Cox Story

TV – This one was a no-brainer. Hell’s Kitchen.

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My wife and I love cooking shows. We watch Food Network and Cooking Channel all the time, and sometimes it feels like we’re just killing time between seasons of Top Chef. But Hell’s Kitchen is the worst, and I eat it up.

It has idiots, losers, smartasses, and Gordon Ramsay tearing them all a new orifice. It’s trash TV, but I can’t help it. It’s like crack coming over the airwaves; I just can’t wait for my next hit.

Music – This one is the hardest for me to admit. Even though I like nearly every single type of music, I really despised ’80’s glam rock, aka ‘Butt Rock’. The catch was, I had to suffer through that crap for the chance to possibly hear or see the harder stuff I really liked on the radio or MTV (ie., Metallica, Slayer, Ministry, Helmet). So, although I can’t stand most of it, I’m quite familiar with that coke-laced, Sunset Strip big-hair crap.

But one song broke through.

Still of the Night, by Whitesnake. Now, I never minded seeing Whitesnake on MTV, but that’s a completely different story, as a lot of guys my age will probably understand.

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By and large, though, I didn’t like their music. Except for Still of the Night. To this day, if that song comes on while I’m in the car the radio gets blasted and I unrepentantly rock the hell out. If anyone caught me listening to it, I’d be mortified. But I can’t help it. It’s a good song, dammit.

I’m curious if anyone else has the gumption to share their guilty pleasures – by all means, let me know in the comments. In the meantime, in doing a little research before I started writing this I found that Still of the Night is only $0.69 on iTunes. My wife is going to kill me.

Van Halen – How One of The World’s Biggest Rock Bands Ruined Junior High For Me

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1984 by Van Halen was the first album (tape) I ever bought with my own money. I was 11 years old, and I don’t remember how I got the money (by honest means, I assure you), but I knew that was what I wanted.

I was raised on rock music. I remember as a kid listening to 94.7 KMET out of L.A. It wasn’t called classic rock yet, because the music wasn’t that old; the oldest stuff they played was from the late ’60’s. Zeppelin, Pink Floyd, The Stones, Jimi, all that stuff.

Then 1984 came out. It got heavy airplay, and I just loved it. Panama, Jump, and my favorite, Hot For Teacher. I bought that tape and damn near wore it out.

By 1986, two things happened: My family moved to a new town, where I realized that as the dorky new kid I was not instantly popular, and Van Halen made a video for Hot For Teacher.

If you haven’t seen it, I’m not going to go into much detail about most of it. Van Halen, girls, yadda yadda. What caused me so much grief was the little intro to the video.

The intro featured a young man, appropriately named “Waldo”, being groomed by his mother for his first day at a new school. He’s worried about being picked on by the other kids, but mother assures him everything will be fine.

The bus comes to pick him up, with kids on it being loud and throwing paper airplanes. The doors to the bus open, and David Lee Roth is the bus driver. Waldo is terrified to get on the bus, but steps on.

Bus Driver Roth looks the young nerd in the eye and calls,

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“SIT DOWN, WALDO!”

The video continues, showing how mortified poor Waldo is at his wild, raucous new school.

Surely you can see where this is headed.

New kid, dorky, glasses…

Getting on the bus in the morning – “Sit down, Waldo!”

Getting off the bus in the afternoon – “Sit down, Waldo!”

For a while it expanded to the hallways and the classroom, but it died down soon enough.

I’d like to make it clear I’m not looking for any sympathy here. Bullying is a huge issue, and kids are (and were back then) bullied way worse than me. Fact is, a little name-calling aside, my life was pretty great. And by high school things went back to normal, and I wasn’t the new kid anymore.

I just couldn’t get over the irony that a band I absolutely loved was causing me so much grief.

Now that I think about it, the second album I ever bought with my own money was Licensed To Ill by the Beastie Boys. Their video for (You Gotta)Fight For Your Right (To Party) had nerds in it, too, but I never had any crazy guys showing up at my house to party with beer and hot chicks. What a gyp.

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